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Shaun, Buffy, and I had been assigned to share one of the RVs, although Buffy usually slept in the van with her equipment, claiming that the perpetual gloom of my special lights gave her, quote, “the heebie-jeebies.” The senator’s crew had been taking it as another sign that our resident techie is a little bit unhinged, and Shaun and I hadn’t been making any efforts to discourage them, even though we knew that it was less of an obsessive-compulsive desire to protect the cameras and more of an ongoing quest for something resembling privacy. Unlike most of our generation, Buffy is an only child, and life in the convoy had been getting on nerves she may not have known she had.

Life in the convoy was also creating a new issue: her religion, and our lack thereof. Buffy prayed before she went to sleep. Buffy said grace before she ate. And Shaun and I didn’t. It was better to avoid the conflict by letting her have a little space. Besides, that gave Shaun and me the sort of privacy we were accustomed to—the kind that never actually leaves you alone, but doesn’t put people in your personal space when you don’t want them there, either.

Two more guards waited at the perimeter gates. Unlike Steve and Tyrone, who kept their pistols concealed beneath their jackets, these two openly held autofeed rifles I vaguely recognized from Mom’s magazines. They could probably hold off the average zombie mob without outside assistance.

“Tracy, Carlos,” I said, and extended my hand, palm down. “I’m tired, I’m filthy, and I’m ready to get drunk with the rest of the good boys and girls. Please confirm my uninfected status so that I can get on with it.”

“Bring me a beer later, and it’s a deal,” Carlos replied, and shoved one of the tester units over my hand, while Tracy did the same for Steve. Tyrone stepped back, waiting his turn. These were midrange units, performing a more sensitive scan and taking a correspondingly longer time to return results. It would be possible for the finger-prick test to declare someone clean and for the full-hand unit to revoke that status less than five minutes later.

My results came back clean, as did Steve’s. Tyrone stepped up to start his own tests and waved us off, toward the third RV in the chain. I could claim that my finely honed journalistic instincts told me which way to go, but they didn’t have nearly as much to do with my choice of destinations as with the fact that it was the only RV with an open door, and was definitely the source of the pounding rock music that was assaulting our ears. The Dandy Warhols. The senator is a man who loves his classics.

Senator Ryman was standing on a coffee table inside the RV with his shirt half-unbuttoned and his tie draped over his left shoulder, saluting the room with a bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. People were cheering too loudly for me to tell what he was saying, but from the look of things, I’d just walked into the middle of a toast. I stopped by the door, stepping out of the way to let Steve get inside behind me, and took a wine cooler offered by one of the interns. I’ve given up trying to keep them straight; this was one of the brunette ones, which made her a Jenny, a Jamie, or a Jill. I swear, they should come with name tags.

Shaun pushed through the crowd, nodding to Steve before settling next to me. “Word?”

“Generally positive. People like our boy.” I nodded to the senator, who had pulled a Jenny up onto the table with him. The audience cheered louder. “I think we might be able to ride this one all the way.”

“Buffy said the same thing,” Shaun agreed, taking a swig from his beer. “Ready to review tonight’s footage?”

“What, and miss the bacchanal? Let me think yes.” I shook my head. “Get me out of here.”

The first postappearance party was fun. So was the third. And the fifteenth. By the twenty-third, I had come to recognize them as a clever method of controlling the locals: let the peons blow off some steam, reinforce the idea that you’re just “one of the gang,” and get down to the real business after most of the campaign had gone to bed. It was cunning, it was productive, and I salute Senator Ryman for thinking of it. All that being what it is, I saw no reason to spend any more time in an overly bright, overly crowded RV drinking crappy wine coolers than I absolutely had to.

Steve smiled wryly as we turned to push past him. “Leaving so soon?”

“I’ll be back for the midnight football game,” Shaun promised, and propelled me out the door with a solid push to the middle of my back. The dimness outside was like a benediction.

“Midnight football?” I asked, giving him a sidelong look as we moved away from the raucous RV, heading for our much quieter van. “Do you sleep?”

“Do you?” he countered.


Shaun spends his time moving, planning to move, and coming up with new ways to move, many of them involving heavy explosives or the undead. I spend my time writing, thinking about writing, and trying to come up with new things I can write about. Sleep has never been high on the priority list for either of us, which is probably a blessing in disguise. We kept each other amused as kids. If one of us had actually wanted to get some rest, we would have made each other crazy.

The van lights were on and the back door was unlocked. Buffy looked up as we entered, her expression remaining distracted even as she made note of our arrival. Once she was sure that we weren’t being pursued by a rampaging horde of zombies, she turned back to her keyboard.

“Working on?” I asked, putting the wine cooler down next to my station.

“Splicing the footage from tonight and synchronizing the sound feeds. I’m thinking of doing a music video remix once it’s all finished. Pick something retro and rock the house. Also, I’m chatting with Chuck. He’s going to let me access his campaign footage to date and see if I can’t put together a sort of retrospective.”

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